Washington DC

The White House

The White House, since 1800 the official residence of the president of the United States, is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. The winner of a 1792 competition for its design was the Irish-American architect James Hoban, whose dignified neoclassical plan was a virtual copy of a project in James Gibbs's Book of Architecture (1728). As early as 1807, Benjamin Latrobe, the principal architect of the Capitol, sought to improve the building by preparing designs for pavilions at either end (added that year in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson), for interior alterations, and for porticos on both fronts. After the building was burned (1814) by the British, it was reconstructed (1815-17) by Hoban, who also added (1826) the semicircular South Portico that Latrobe had proposed and completed (1829) Latrobe's rectangular North Portico.

The White House was extensively remodeled (1902) by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White, which also added the East Gallery and the Executive Office Wing. Between 1948 and 1952 the building, deemed structurally unsound, was gutted and its interior structure replaced with steel framing, within which the original rooms were reconstructed. Since 1961 each First Lady has contributed to a continuing effort to refurbish the interior. The resultant enhancement has made the White House a veritable museum of decorative arts of the first quarter of the 19th century.

The U.S. Capitol Building

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolically important buildings in the world. It has housed the meeting chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives for over two centuries. Begun in 1793, the Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored; today, it stands as a monument not only to its builders but also to the American people and their government.As the focal point of the government's Legislative Branch, the Capitol is the centerpiece of the Capitol Campus, which includes the six principal Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings constructed on Capitol Hill in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In addition to its active use by Congress, the Capitol is a museum of American art and history. Each year, it is visited by an estimated 3-5 million people from around the world. A fine example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, the Capitol combines function with aesthetics. Its designs derived from ancient Greece and Rome evoke the ideals that guided the nation's founders as they framed their new republic. As the building was expanded from its original design, harmony with the existing portions was carefully maintained.

Today, the Capitol covers a ground area of 175,170 square feet, or about 4 acres, and has a floor area of approximately 16-1/2 acres. Its length, from north to south, is 751 feet 4 inches; its greatest width, including approaches, is 350 feet. Its height above the base line on the east front to the top of the Statue of Freedom is 288 feet; from the basement floor to the top of the dome is an ascent of 365 steps. The building contains approximately 540 rooms and has 658 windows (108 in the dome alone) and approximately 850 doorways.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln and the nation he fought to preserve during the Civil War (1861-1865). "In this Temple, as in the hearts of the people, for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever". These words, carved high above the massive Lincoln memorial statue, reveal the sacred nature of an otherwise secular national memorial. Forever a symbol of unity and social justice, the Lincoln Memorial inspires millions of Washington DC sightseeing visitors each year.

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial, standing at the west end of theNational Mall, is a neoclassical monument built to resemble a Greek temple. It has 36 Doric columns, one for each state at the time of Lincoln"s death. A sculpture by Daniel Chester French of a seated Lincoln commands the center of the memorial chamber. From his perch, Lincoln appears to be looking over the Reflecting Pool to theWashington Monument, a setting of intense visual power. So moving, as a symbol of freedom, that this shrine was also the setting of Martin Luther King"s famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial is perhaps the most deeply moving American icon celebrating democratic ideals in the world. It glorifies the colossal achievements that have kept the nation together for over two centuries. Inscribed in enormous letters on the south wall of the monument is the thought-provoking Gettysburg Address.

Modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial aspires to remind us of the tremendous ancient Greeks, the first modern culture to practice a form of democratic government. In addition, it serves as a national Civil War memorial, recalling the horrific violence and destruction the conflict reeked on the land and a whole American generation. The lessons it taught about our government, in its ability to weather a civil war and re-emerge a unified and improved democracy, have made the history Lincoln Memorial represents so important. The Memorial itself has become a dignified symbol of that democracy.
The Statue
Daniel Chester French, the leading American sculptor of the day, created the famous statue of Lincoln which dominates the interior. The memorial plans originally specified a 12-foot bronze statue, but it proved out of scale for the huge building. The finished statue is 19 feet tall, carved of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble. French later had special lighting installed to enhance the figure.